Governments should be held accountable by Muslims

It is a sad and unfortunate part of the human nature, that when oppressed by others, we appeal to humanity and Justice, and fight against the oppression, as we should. Once we get the upper hand we turn around and inflict similar atrocities on others. All ethnic groups, religions and societies have been guilty of this evil.

In these ever-repeating tragedies, the innocents are the victims. Yet by their quiescence, when it happens to others, they are guilty of being enablers. Often the lament is what could an individual do? It is usually true, but not always. As the history is witness, not many but a few times, an average individual has made a difference.

It is important to speak out against all atrocities, even when one can not make a difference materially. It is more difficult, therefore more important to speak out against atrocities committed by one’s own kind.

Recently the Asian Center for human rights reported, the land grab and killing of indigenous "Jumma" people in south-eastern Bangladesh (Chitagong Hills). The attacks are aimed at terrorizing indigenous people for their lands. In April 2003, the army and illegal settlers burnt down Jumma houses in Bhuiochari village after indigenous peoples asked the settlers to stop encroaching onto their lands, and to dismantle the houses they had built. The army encircled the village and forced the indigenous people out of their homes while the settlers looted and burnt down the houses".

Recall that Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971 because of the inequities and the maltreatment from the more powerful Western Pakistanis. Similar atrocities are committed by the Janjaveed (Nomadic Sudanese, claming Arab decent) on the darker settled Muslims of Darfur region.

Muslims vocally, monetarily and emotionally decry and condemn, as they should, the atrocities and land grab against Muslims in Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Ughur, Kashmir, Gujarat and many other places. Such land grab, ethnic cleansing and genocide are occasionally even gingerly condemned by the supposedly Islamic governments, though not too vocally lest their own record may be examined more closely.

Yet, when Muslims oppress people of other religions or even other Muslims in the same manner the criticism at most is muted. For example the persecution of Muslims and non-Muslims by the erstwhile Talibans in Afghanistan, Kurds by Arab regimes, Jumma people in Bangladesh, Qadianis in Pakistan or tribal cleansing in Darfur region of Sudan and Acheh in Indonesia.

To their credit many Muslim journalists have taken pains to write about it with passion. Bangladesh Observer wrote a very strong editorial, but the governments, social and political organizations and individuals remain generally silent or perfunctorily shake their heads.

Often governments justify their actions or inaction by pointing to the follies and deviance of the people being oppressed. These are more self-serving than real. Even when true, the duty of the government is to treat all its citizens with equality and justice. The miscreants should be brought to the court of law. Governments that suppress civil descent and practice oppression in effect invite rebellion.

Unfortunately it is true that some in the Western media with an anti-Islamic agenda would take the Muslim condemnation of other Muslims for their own purposes. It should not deter us, because it has been going on for a long time. Our timidity and non-condemnation only helps the evil forces within our communities. Paucity of reform and negation of such heinous forces from inside the community bring condemnation and pressure from outside. It only helps to advance the agenda of those outside forces that are malicious towards Islam for their own vile reasons. It is always better if the opposition springs from within the community. It is more effective and conducive to thoughtful change.

The idea that "true understanding and adherence of religion would ameliorate these problems", have been bandied about in all religions since time immemorial. It has only produced more discord and arguments about the true meaning of the religion.

In public discourse we never tire of pointing out that Islam stands for peace, mercy and compassion’ and it does! Oppression breeds extremism. When extreme becomes common, the normative base of the society is severely injured. Such perversity of beliefs must be opposed by the civil society, especially one that claims a moral high ground.

When others practice cruelty and mayhem against Muslims, it hurts and we resist and fight against it. When Muslims do it, we need to fight even harder. We should condemn it, resist it and fight against it with even greater resolve.

The question that is staring us in the face and tugging at our conscience is – Do we practice Islam as a religion of morality without exception as it ought to be, or simply as an extension of local tribalism into a super tribe? Should only others be condemned for inhumanity, but people in our own super-tribe are ours therefore should be supported lest they grow even weaker or at worst should be gingerly criticized so that others may not see what we refuse to acknowledge?

It is a shame that the central tenet of Islamic ethos based on Justice is so cavalierly and nonchalantly being violated by many Muslin governments to some degree, and we are mute, observers at best and by our quiescence collaborators at worst.